Could You Imagine Austin Without an International Airport?

Posted on 10/12/2015 by Austin Chamber of Commerce

Austin’s growing international airport helps attract more businesses and travelers.

The Chamber’s runway with Austin aviation dates back to 1917. That’s when we helped bring a U.S. Army delegation to sanction Penn Field as Austin’s first official airport. Actually, we had secured options for about 1,700 acres of land south of Austin. It turned out that 318 of those acres were deemed suitable for Penn Field. In 1940, the Chamber again filled a need. We financed two non-college air pilot schools at a time when the nation had almost no pilots and less than 500 fighter planes. The Chamber was also proactive in the development of Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA). In the late 1990s, the Robert Mueller Municipal airport was bursting at the seams and a new facility was needed to help attract more companies and jobs to the region, especially technology companies.

Air Service Task Force

To help accelerate economic growth, we created the Air Service Task Force in 2008. This is part of Opportunity Austin, a five-county economic development initiative of the Austin Chamber of Commerce. The idea was to form a group of business community leaders to assist ABIA with recruitment and retention of air service to Central Texas. The task force includes about 40 volunteer representatives from ABIA, Austin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, UT, SXSW, local trade organizations, and other local companies both small and large. The team meets regularly to discuss needs and create plans to advocate for additional infrastructure to the airport, non-stop flights and more carriers to diversify ABIA.

Austin’s first transatlantic nonstop flight to London: resounding success.

One of the biggest accomplishments of the task force was helping to land British Airways as Austin’s first transatlantic nonstop flight to London in March 2014. This is expected to bring $70 million in economic impact and over 1,100 new jobs the region.

  • When the announcement was made in 2013, Gary Farmer, President of Heritage Title Company of Austin, Inc. and then Chairman of Opportunity Austin said: “This flight represents a pivotal moment for the city of Austin, as it reflects the region’s growing significance on the global stage as both a destination for business and international tourism. Initiatives like Opportunity Austin allow businesses to voice support for initiatives like this in a unified and impactful manner, with a result that will benefit the region for generations to come.”
  • The London-Austin route has been so successful, British Airways plans to boost capacity and invest in the premium service for customers. Starting Oct. 25, 2015, the company will switch planes from a Boeing 787 Dreamliner to a bigger Boeing 777-200.
  • The task force was also part of Air Canada launching nonstop service to Toronto. That inaugural flight began in May 2015.

ABIA serves more than 11 million travelers: 49 nonstop flights served by 13 carriers.

  • “That’s an unprecedented number that we want to sustain,” according to Doug Driskell, chair of the Chamber’s Air Service Task Force and executive at Dell, in a recent Austin American-Statesman article.
  • As Austin is the Live Music Capitol of the world, the Airport also takes part. Through its Music in the Air program, ABIA has six live music stages right in the terminal, so travelers get to sample the music that makes Austin great. Music and art are featured throughout the airport, including a unique guitar display in baggage claim.
  • Travel+ Leisure World's Best Airports 2015 recently ranked Austin’s airport #5 best domestic airport.

For 138 years, members of the Austin Chamber have had a passion for shaping our region into a great place to live, work and play. We have been engaged and involved with the founding of UT, SXSW, technology and innovation, the international airport, Barton Springs, and many other defining characteristics that make Austin’s culture unique. We are a community that is authentic, creative, caring, and diverse. These are some of the traits that have attracted more than 370 companies -- and 270,000 new jobs—to our region in the last 11 years. Click here to subscribe to our newsletters or manage your subscriptions.

Related Categories: Chamber, Economic Development, Innovate Austin